Al. I. Cuza’s 1864 Decree and the Decree No. 410 of 1959 — comparative overview: context, content, consequences

11 September 2012

Romanian monasticism is one of the oldest in Orthodoxy. Its
value lies not only in its old age, but also in its complex work. Concretely,
it gave birth to many saints, it brought a priceless contribution
to the religious-moral formation of the Romanian people,
it had an invaluable contribution to the cultural development of the
nation, it carried a social-philantropical work in the midst of the
people, it has been involved in the important achievements of the
country’s history, it helped the Holy Places, etc.
However, its history has not known only accomplishments, but
has had so great moments, of trial. Among these we will name only
two of the most important: The Organic Decree for the Regulation
of the Monastic Order, signed by the ruler Alexandru Ioan Cuza,
on the 30th of November 1864, and The Decree No. 410 of the totalitarian
communist regime, of the 28th of October 1959.
Although they were established and enforced in different periods,
at almost a century apart, and although they apparently
had totally opposite influences, the first from the West, the second
from the East, they both wanted to limit monasticism: to reduce
the number of those who wanted to adopt a monastic life, as well
as to close some of the monastic settlements.
The enforcement of the two decrees lead, on the one hand, to
the drastic decrease of the number of monks and nuns, to the closing
and transformation of some monasteries and hermitages into
parish churches, but also to the reduction of the cultural and social-
philantropical activities or the believers’ depriving of confessors
over the course of many decades.
However, despite the mentioned negative consequences, we have
the certainty that they were allowed by God, with an educational
purpose, for the strengthening of monasticism, for us to realize
its importance and to be fully aware of the “cross” it represents.
Their history brings us, however, something to reflect upon: if
in the XIX-th century the decree was influenced by the West, if in
the XX-th century the decree was marked by the influences from
the East, we must pray a lot so that in the XXI-st century, marked
by secularization, God takes care of the monasticism; may He help
all the monks and nuns fulfill with diligence the promises made to
the One Who gave all the evangelical advise.